On Friday pharmacies received guidance explaining how they can order flu jabs from the Government’s central stockpile – but ongoing discussions with wholesalers mean they are still unable to place orders.
To help meet its target of vaccinating 30 million people against flu this winter, the Government has ring-fenced vaccine supplies, and is requiring GPs and pharmacies to order from this central stock.
In order to maintain the usual supply chains, the Department of Health and Social Care guidance says central stock will be delivered to pharmacies via wholesalers as in previous years.
This is in contrast to GPs, who have been instructed to place orders directly with manufacturers GSK, Seqirus, Mylan and Sanofi. GPs received their guidance on ordering from central stock on October 9 and have been able to place orders in recent weeks, though the PSNC says they are unlikely to receive supplies before pharmacies; the Goverment says stock "will be available from November".
Pharmacy Network News understands that lengthy talks to arrange for deliveries to take place via wholesale routes have been a key factor in delays. A PSNC spokesperson told PNN today that discussions around the logistics are still ongoing but should be concluded “very soon”.
Once agreements with wholesalers have been finalised, the DHSC will publish a list of wholesalers which have central stock available.
Before ordering vaccines from the stockpile, contractors are required to assess current and expected uptake rates in patient groups eligible for NHS flu jabs, and then make a comparison with their current supplies.
“You should only be accessing additional stock if you have allocated or used all your locally ordered stock,” the DHSC told contractors, adding that wholesalers will require pharmacies to make a declaration to that effect.
For the time being, Government supplies must only be used on Group A, which includes over-65s and frontline health and care workers.
Later, once uptake “can be assured in Group A,” pharmacies will be able to vaccinate 50-64 year-olds and private patients, though the latter will not be reimbursed under the NHS service.
Commenting on the publication of the guidance, Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board chair Claire Anderson said: “Whilst it’s welcome that this guidance on flu vaccination stocks is now available for community pharmacists in England, it’s frustrating that it has taken this long.
“If we’re to support collaborative working with healthcare professionals to deliver this ambitious programme, pharmacists need to be included in guidance early alongside others.”